Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Legal advice sought on parking proposals

As I blogged yesterday, Cornwall Council's Parking Panel has voted through its plan to raise parking charges in Launceston significantly whilst cutting prices in other parts of Cornwall. They have also approved the plan to increase season ticket prices from £195 to £600.

Whilst the Council spin machine claims that they have listened to and made changes based on the responses from more than 1000 people who replied to the formal consultation, the truth is that these changes are marginal at best and do nothing to ameliorate the fears that most people have over the rises.

Of those who responded to the consultation (a record number for Cornwall Council by the way), just seven or so were in favour of the plans.

During the meeting, I asked the committee to consider an option to abandon their plans and think again in the face of the rejection from consultees. For the coming year, I suggested that they should simply freeze tariffs or, if that were not possible, put every price up by the same percentage. With the budget demanding a 6% increase in the 'take' from parking, why could all prices not simply be raised by that amount whilst the panel comes up with another plan for the following year. (Incidentally, I believe it is wrong for the Council to think that it can squeeze that much money out of motorists, but this rise is now fixed).

However an officer at the meeting cautioned against this saying that if the current plan were abandoned then a whole new consultation exercise would have to undertaken by the council at large cost and with a consequent delay. In the light of this advice, the panel members decided against my request.

However, I am not sure that the officer's advice is actually true and I have asked for a formal legal opinion from the Council's Head of Legal on the matter.

In my view, with the proposed scheme being so roundly rejected by consultees, it should be open to the panel to abandon this and devise a new scheme. This could not be done immediately but would have to wait for April 2012. Of course there would need to be consultation on that. From April next year, the current policy (plus the 6% demanded by the budget) could be continued without the need for more consultation.

I appreciate the work that the parking panel has done, but I believe that the scheme they have come up with is massively unfair to many areas (not just Launceston) and is clearly unpopular with drivers. I think they should accept that, despite their valiant efforts, they have come up with the wrong policy.

If the legal officer agrees with my view then I shall be arguing that the panel recommendation should be disregarded as they based it on flawed advice from officers.

Note: To see for yourself what people said about the proposed charge rises, click here and then view the Supplemental Agenda

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